Xpress is speaking with artists and performers in advance of the upcoming autumn LEAF festival, a weekend dedicated to art and music, held Thursday, Oct. 20, through Sunday, Oct. 23. Tickets are available through Oct. 20, unless they sell out sooner.
The two core members of Clan Destiny Circus, Creatix Iz Web (aka “Ringmistress Iz”) and Jeff “Tree” Anderson spoke about their purpose and their plans for this fall’s LEAF. The Asheville-based group redefines circus theater by involving artists of all kinds — dancers, musicians, visual artists and circus performers — to collaborate, teach and perform. The circus band will be debuting its show, MAYA: Illusions of Experience, at the end of this month, to be held at the Masonic Temple.
Clan Destiny Circus performs Friday at the Roots Family Stage, 6:15-6:45 p.m., and Saturday at the Lakeside Stage, 5:20-5:50 p.m.
Xpress: Why do you think circus theater is a good platform for socially relevant stories?
Jeff “Tree” Anderson: Circus theater combines so many disciplines and art forms that, by its nature, it transcends barriers such as class or culture. It is the one medium everybody can enjoy. Because it’s a medium that transcends barriers such as language, circus theater artists usually work within larger story structures: mythology, heroic journeys and voyages to distant worlds. Ultimately, all journeys are inward, and the stories told with the medium of circus theater resonate with all humans on some level. Clan Destiny Circus strives to amplify that feeling and inspire our audience.
What kind of socially-relevant stories appeal to you?
Anderson: Almost all of Clan Destiny Circus’s work is based on the idea of stepping out of yourself and into a bigger world. People are feeling helpless and worried and worn out; when they come to a Clan Destiny Circus show they see a celebration of not just us but also themselves. Our audiences identify with the various characters we portray and the trials and tribulations they go through. Not all of our skits end [happily], but we let you know that sometimes it’s okay. They also celebrate our triumphs with us. We really strive to connect with our audience. We’re all just folk, and we’re in this together, and it’s something everyone who sees our shows takes with them back into their daily lives.
Creatix Iz Web: When I look back at our body of work from our five years together, the stories I recall are mostly of humans overcoming some kind of challenge and evolving. Whether it’s the story of a young traveler finding herself through the challenges she faces on the road, the story of people learning to break the patterns of violence and become friends, or the story of someone finding their true calling and learning to shine, these are universal human stories that everyone — no matter where they came from — can relate to and be inspired by.
What kind of performance do you have planned for LEAF?
Anderson: Clan Destiny Circus will definitely perform a few of our classic pieces and fan favorites, but this show will also feature some of our new material. We have been working with a new choreographer and director, Evan Westbrook, for our show MAYA: Illusions of Experience that premieres the weekend after LEAF. It has been an amazing experience and there will definitely be a few acts that have never been seen before.
Web: In addition to our main stage performance at LEAF on Saturday evening, we are also presenting a showcase [with] our “extended” Clan Destiny Circus family on Friday night at the Roots stage. For both shows, we’ll be previewing new material from our upcoming show, MAYA: Illusions of Experience. For our Friday night show, we’ll also be showing off the mad skills of our wonderful workshop instructors from whom you can learn various circus arts at LEAF all day Saturday and Sunday at the Roots stage.
Clan Destiny Circus holds several workshops in the circus arts. Why do you feel it is important to share your skills with the community?
Anderson: Our motto is “Everybody deserves circus.” Our skill shares are a way of helping people find their circus. When people leave one of our workshops, they will have done circus tricks that they never thought they would be able to do. Our hope is that they take that great feeling of accomplishment and go home and pick up a paintbrush again, or go for a jog, or dust of some old photography equipment, because if circus is possible for them, what else might be possible? This is also the main theme for our new feature show, MAYA.
Web: I can’t even begin to tell you how much my life has benefited from the practice of circus arts — it would take a book. I’ve become more agile and physically confident, my mental focus has improved, and my whole outlook on life and its infinite possibilities has transformed for the better. So for me, it’s kind of like when you find out how amazing water is and what the health benefits are, you can’t help but want to share [that] with others just for the chance to help make their experience of life, and these bodies that we’re in, a little better. Plus, acrobatics specifically improves one’s abilities to work with others and to communicate more effectively — skills I think our world could use more of!